While Estonians are bracing themselves for several weeks of pre-Christmas gloom this season, some Anglo/Irish cultures are getting ready to observe Halloween. And you may have noticed that with winter fast approaching, the Tallinn nights are getting longer and darker. As the light dwindles, parts of the Old Town are starting to take on a mysterious, somewhat forlorn quality.
With this in mind, we decided that this would be a good time to go ghost hunting - specifically, to find out which places in Old Town are associated with spooky stories and paranormal activity. It’s pretty much required for any town as old as Tallinn to have a number of such tales, but while researching the subject we were surprised to learn that, without exaggeration, almost every house in Old Town is reputed to be haunted by some spirit or another. Some of accounts of ghostly activity have taken on the quality of legends, while others, with more recent witnesses, are simply creepy.
If you’re a sceptic, feel free to skip this part and move right on, but if you happen to be walking home late at night through the wrong fog-laden Old Town street and you get that prickly feeling as if someone’s watching you, don’t run screaming to us. What follows is a list of supposedly haunted sites in Old Town. Read on ...if you dare.
Rataskaevu 16, the Devil’s Wedding
If you happen to be standing near the so-called Cat’s Well on Rataskaevu street, look up and house number 16 and you’ll notice something odd - one of the windows on the top floor is bricked up from the inside, and has false curtains painted on the inside. This 15-th century house happens to be the subject of Tallinn’s most famous ghost legend, a story called ‘The Devil’s Wedding.’
The tale goes like this: Long ago, the landlord of this house, desperate for money and near suicidal with despair, was approached by a mysterious, cloaked man who offered a huge sum of money to rent the upstairs flat for a party. The renter’s only condition was complete privacy. The landlord readily agreed. During the evening in question, loud noises were heard, as if a hundred guests were tramping up the stairs, and an ungodly racket issued from the room. Precisely at one o’clock, the sound abruptly stopped, as if the party had simply vanished. The next day the landlord ‘s servant, who had been spying through the keyhole, was found mortally ill. Before dying, the servant claimed to have seen the Devil himself having a wedding party in the flat.
For centuries, people passing this house late at night have heard unexplainable party noises, and these only stopped once a later owner of the flat, tired of the complaints, bricked up the window.
Raul Reemet, one of the owners of Sushi House restaurant, which now occupies part of the building, told us a different version of the story - that it was thundering footsteps on the stairs, not party noises, that were heard through the years. He also said that the window was bricked up for more prosaic, legal reasons.
However, he did inform us that, during the recent, extensive remodelling of the building numerous artefacts were found hidden in the walls, including coins, documents and, in one wall in the back of the restaurant in what’s now the employees’ room, human bones.
For this article, we managed to visit the apartment behind the bricked up window and found nothing Satanic - just a comfy, modern living space.
Lühike Jalg Gate Tower, the executioner
The three neighbouring towers next to the Danish Garden on Toompea all have ghost stories associated with them. One of these, the gate tower at the top of Lühike Jalg street, can be considered Old Town’s most haunted spot, simply due to the number and persistence of reported incidents. Its fame in this regard has made it the subject of several psychic studies and investigations into the paranormal. Sightings have included a pair of monks, a woman in old-fashioned dress, and even a fire-spitting dog. In one version of events, spiritualists in the 1930 contacted the troubled spirit of a monk who had been the town executioner early in life, and couldn’t atone for his previous occupation.